Jobs to fill winter months
CROSS the country people will be heaving a sigh of relief as they shove the gardening tools in the shed one last time and bang the door shut.
British Summer Time is officially over in a fortnight and for some that spells the close of the gardening season and the start of some long lie-ins at the weekend.
But not everyone is so pleased. Keen gardeners often feel bereft at the thought of those wintry months with nothing for green fingers to do.
By February some of them are almost crawling up the walls. The good news is winter is a great time for catching up on all those things you simply can’t fit in to the summer schedule because regular mowing, clipping, trimming and weeding take up all your time.
Now that everything has stopped growing there’s a chance to spend time working on the bigger picture. If some parts of the garden are ripe for a mini-makeover, four quiet months give you plenty of time for a redesign.
The planning can all be done indoors when the weather’s too bad for anything else then in mild spells you can get on with digging out foundations, laying paving and doing any brickwork.
There’s also time to assemble sheds, flat-pack arches or gazebos, put up fencing or trellis, dig a pond or make raised beds for growing vegetables.
Winter is also ideal for soil preparation. If you are creating a new lawn, kitchen garden or flower bed there is bags of time to get the ground cleared and dug over.
You can also push ahead with planting. The dormant season – from now until mid-March – is the best time for planting deciduous trees, shrubs, roses and hedges.
Indeed, it’s the only time you can plant bare-root plants dug up from a nursery field. Even pot-grown shrubs from garden centres “take” so much better if they are put in when they aren’t in leaf.
What’s more, you can make big savings by planting now as garden centres often hold end-of-season sales to clear the decks in time for Christmas.
There are lots of useful little jobs too – sorting out the shed and cleaning pots and seed trays ready for spring. When the weather is inclement you can spend time indoors profitably by ordering seeds and plants from catalogues.
Outside, prepare for wintry weather by lagging the outdoor tap, replacing cracked panes of glass in the greenhouse and securing tree ties. Dull? Well, maybe but boy will you feel virtuous when these jobs are done.
If you want something creative to get stuck into collect plants that do their stuff in winter. You might dabble in named varieties of snowdrops in pots, unusual winter flowering conservatory plants such as Lachenalia and Correa or exotic houseplants.
In the garden there are various winter-flowering shrubs to enjoy and winter containers to plant up. So there’s no excuse for feeling bored, fed up or housebound.
The winter break is a great chance to do the sort of gardening you can’t do the rest of the year. Make the most of it.
SPREAD A LITTLE OF NATURE’S FINEST
COME the muck-spreading don’t want to use manure from season you may well wonder factory-farmed animals but if what sort of manure is best. you keep hens or the children Horse, chicken, pig, cattle – keep rabbits, save old bedding donkey perhaps. when you clean them out.
While there are minor It needs composting well first variations between species, the since any fresh manure – biggest difference is in the way especially chicken – is high in animals are kept and the type of nitrogen and can scorch plants bedding used, since this if applied too soon. It’s best inevitably ends up forming the mixed with green waste and put bulk of the on the manure compost you buy. heap where it
Horse works as an manure is the activator. gardener’s The type of traditional bedding used favourite, makes a big mainly difference. because it is Most still widely gardeners available in prefer country manure from areas. And animals when well bedded on rotted and straw since it ready to rots quickly. use it’s Sawdust or reasonably wood pleasant to shavings are handle and slow to rot is fairly and take a lot odourless. of nitrogen
Horses fed out of the a finely tuned manure in the diet or those process. given But as a concentrated rule of thumb supplements whatever you will produce can get most manure of is best for containing far your garden.
COMPOST: Mix in garden waste more plant The physical nutrients than those fed conditioning effect on the soil is exclusively on grass. what works wonders.
In the past gardeners often Though manure contains used manure from bullock yards useful trace elements it’s low or pig farms and being rather in the major nutrients – “fresh” it tended to stink a bit nitrogen, phosphorus and which upset the neighbours. potassium – so you still need
These days a lot of people to use general fertiliser.
DIGGING IT: Colder months are a good time to plant trees and shrubs